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September 3, 2009

Game On: Coastal Carolina at Kent State

Kent State kicks off the 2009 season on Thursday when the Golden Flashes host Coastal Carolina at 7:00 p.m. at Dix Stadium.

The Golden Flashes ended the 2008 season just 4-8, but defeated Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo, 24-21, in the season's final week.

The Chanticleers ended last year 6-6, but struggled to a 1-4 record in the Big South. They lost their final game of the 2008 season, 24-0, to Charleston Southern and haven't scored since the second quarter of their 21-13 win over Presbyterian on Nov. 15, 2008.

Here's a look at how both teams match-up:

KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES
EDGE
COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS
SECONDARY Edge: Opponent
PASSING ATTACK
The Golden Flashes allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 63-percent of their passes last season. Three of the four starters return including safety Brian Lainhart, who led the team with six interceptions. Zach MacDowall threw for over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first season at Coastal Carolina. Two of his top three targets return and the Chanticleers added former Michigan State tight end David Duran.
LINEBACKERS Edge: KSU
GROUND ATTACK
Michigan transfer Cobrani Mixon returns after leading this unit with 73 tackles last season while the rest of the returners combined for 60 tackles last season. Despite the limited production, there's plenty of experience here. Junior Eric O'Neal led the Chanticleers with 405 yards rushing on 79 carries. He's been banged up in camp, but should get the start. If he can't go, or can't get the job done, look for freshman Jeremy Height to get the ball.
DEFENSIVE LINE Edge: Opponent
OFFENSIVE LINE
Senior defensive end Kevin Hogan--who needs just one sack to move into second all-time at Kent State--leads an undersized defensive line that struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks last season. It could be a long day if the Flashes can't force Coastal into a one-dimensional offense. Coastal's offensive line has combined to start 67 games. Center Ryan Boehm is a preseason all-Big South Conference selection. It's a big unit--the line averages over 6-foot-3, 304 pounds per man. That should help MacDowall find an open receiver and O'Neal and Height with plenty of open holes to run through.
PASSING ATTACK Edge: Opponent
SECONDARY
Redshirt sophomore Giorgio Morgan will make the third start of his career. Two years ago he threw for 247 yards and three scores in a loss to MAC champion Central Michigan before breaking his leg the following week. He redshirted last year. Morgan has a big arm, but to have success, he will need consistent play out of his line and wide receivers. Keon Cunningham led all Coastal Carolina defensive backs with 42 tackles and three picks...and he isn't expected to start. Last season, CCU ranked first in the Big South in pass defense. Was it talent or an inability to shut down the run? Giorgio Morgan and Co. will find out Thursday night. The Chants likely will bring a lot of pressure to confuse Morgan, forcing this unit to play well.
GROUND ATTACK Edge: KSU
LINEBACKERS
Fifth-year senior Eugene Jarvis is Kent State's most consistent offensive threat. But, he can't do it alone. The Flashes have plenty of depth with Andre Flowers and freshman speedster Dri Archer. Coastal will focus on stopping Jarvis. Can the Chanticleers succeed where so many other teams have failed? Coastal's defense finished fifth in the Big South in rush defense, but its linebackers were an active group. Junior Derrick Frasier posted 67 tackles and classmate Chris Walls made 58 stops. They'll need to play with their heads on a swivel to keep track of Jarvis, who often disappears behind his offensive linemen. If this unit can help slow Jarvis down, the Chanticleers have a chance to shut down the Flashes offense.
OFFENSIVE LINE Edge: KSU
DEFENSIVE LINE
Redshirt sophomore center Chris Anzevino leads a relatively young group of offensive linemen. Last fall, the Flashes ranked 11th nationally in rushing. But, the Flashes have struggled in their pass protection. Coastal likes to blitz, so protecting Morgan must be a priority for this group. Coastal Carolina's weakness last season was stopping opponents from running the football. They'll find out early if they made any improvement as they'll be tested by last season's 11th best rushing team. Defensive tackle Robert Balkunas and his line mates aren't big, but they are quick. Like the linebackers, they'll need to keep an eye on Jarvis at all times.
SPECIAL TEAMS Edge: KSU
SPECIAL TEAMS
Kent State has struggled in all facets of special teams. The Flashes focused on the unit in the offseason, and the results so far have been positive. They possess game breakers in the return units and their punting has been solid. After two impressive scrimmage performances, freshman Freddy Cortez won the place kicking duties. Can he maintain that consistency when the games count? The Flashes also have to limit return yardage to keep field position in their favor.

Like Kent State, Coastal Carolina has had problems on special teams. They managed to convert just 11-of-22 field goal attempts and 86-percent of PATs. But, both place kicker Justin Durham and punter Ben Erdman, a preseason all-Big South selection, return and the Chanticleers hope that experience shows up in the kicking game. Coastal's biggest disadantage--less scholarship players than their hosts--could show up in special teams, where one big play could decide the game.

SUMMARY: Kent State struggled to defend against the pass last season; Coastal Carolina possesses a veteran quarterback with a good grasp of the offense. Coastal Carolina struggled against the rush last season; Kent State possesses one of the most productive running backs in the nation. Both teams struggled in special teams, and that's likely where the game's biggest plays will be made.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

  1. Kent State's offensive line must protect quarterback Giorgio Morgan against Coastal Carolina's blitz packages.
  2. Eugene Jarvis must get his touches--eiter carrying the football or in the passing game.
  3. Coastal Carolina's secondary can't allow big plays in the passing game.
  4. The Golden Flashes can't allow Coastal Carolina to have a big game offensively.
  5. Special teams will play a big role in this game. Which team makes the biggest plays?
PREDICTION: KSU 31, CCU 23



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